Brian Pembelton believes he’s in the perfect racing situation. The Limited Sportsman Division driver says his racing efforts are “dedicated” to South Boston (Va.) Speedway. That dedication brought him the 2009 division championship at the .400-mile paved track, and he’s the early-season track point leader.
Pembelton is off to a great start in 2011. He has two wins and six top-fives in six starts. In addition to the track points he leads the NASCAR Finalist Division II pavement standings for the second week.
“South Boston Speedway is a prestige track absolutely,” Pembelton said. “It has a big history and it’s professionally run. We also have a combination of the best race car drivers you’ll ever find and a very ‘racy’ track.
“We have the right people on our team and when you have the right people you have the confidence that you can go out and compete for the win every night out.”
His team includes crew chief Bruce Anderson, Rocky Hash, Stanley Pope and Matt Conner. His sponsors include Pembelton Forest Products Inc., F&P Enterprises Inc., Bruce Anderson Racing, Maple Wood Shavings Inc., and Sellers Racing Inc.
The NASCAR Finalist Program began in 2010 as a way to recognize the accomplishments throughout all of the racing divisions at NASCAR Whelen All-American Series tracks.
Other NASCAR Finalist Division leaders on pavement include Division III Jim Albert, Houston (Tex.) Motorsports Park and Thunderhill Raceway in Kyle, Tex.; Division IV Jack Nugent, Colorado National Speedway in Dacono, Colo.; and Donald Wood, Stafford Motor Speedway in Stafford Springs, Conn.
Dirt track NASCAR Finalist Division leaders include Division II Jim Hendricks Jr., Junction Motor Speedway in McCool Junction, Neb. and I-80 Speedway in Greenwood, Neb.; Division III Brad Deery, I-80 Speedway and Adams County Speedway in Corning, Iowa; Division IV Jamie Spanel, I-80 Speedway; and Division V Bill Gibson, Adams County Speedway.
Pembelton says a level playing field for the Limited Sportsman Division at South Boston is helping the division thrive. He drives a Chevy Impala based on a Jay Hedgecock-built Late Model Stock Car chassis.
“Since the track went to a GM crate engine for us, the cost to race has gone down and the competition has tightened up. You can’t get out-motored anymore. It’s up to the drives and their crew.”
Pembelton said South Boston Speedway has some nuances that keep drivers and crew chiefs busy.
“You have to make adjustments almost every week because the track is very weather sensitive," Pembelton said. "I like a car that’s free on the edge of loose. If you miss your set-up or not run your line, you can go from being a first-place car to a 10th-place car.”
After winning the division championship in 2009, Pembelton placed fifth in last year’s track standings. He missed some races in order to gain experience at some other tracks.
“We raced at Myrtle Beach Speedway, and that’s a huge track,” Pembleton said of the .538-mile coastal South Carolina oval. “It’s a lot of fun and its fast. My downfall was tire wear. You have to conserve your tires there, which I didn’t do.”
Like Myrtle Beach, South Boston is a historic NASAR track. South Boston was a founding track of both the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series in 1982. The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour each make annual stops.
Pembelton believes the Finalist Program is a symbol of NASCAR's support for short-track racing.
“We’re very appreciative of the NASCAR Finalist Division program,” the driver said. “A lot of the guys we watch racing on TV today came from the grass roots of NASCAR short tracks. Denny Hamlin started out in support divisions at Virginia NASCAR tracks. The Finalist Division gives us an opportunity to shine. NASCAR made a good decision to do this program.
“Our team is excited to come out of the gate like this and we’re fortunate to be doing as good as we are. We’re going to keep digging.”
The NASCAR Finalist program recognizes drivers who compete in support divisions at NASCAR Whelen All-American Series tracks. With Division I being each track’s top division, the NASCAR Finalist program highlights drivers competing in each track’s Division II, III, IV and V. A NASCAR-licensed driver’s best 14 finishes are counted toward their final point total for the year. Points are kept separately for dirt and asphalt tracks.
The top three drivers in each of the four asphalt and four dirt NASCAR Finalist Divisions be recognized at the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards Banquet. The banquet is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 9, at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C..